Modern History (Version 8.4)


The Modern History curriculum enables students to study the forces that have shaped today’s world and provides them with a broader and deeper comprehension of the world in which they live.


Structure of Modern History

In Modern History, students study the forces that have shaped the modern world and develop a broader and deeper comprehension of the world in which they live. The Modern History curriculum consists of four units.


Links to Foundation to Year 10

The Modern History curriculum continues to develop student learning in history through the same strands used in the Foundation to Year 10 history curriculum, although in the historical knowledge and understanding strand in Years 9-10, there is a focus on the history of Australia and the modern world, particularly world events and movements of significance in Australia’s social, economic and political development.


Representation of General capabilities

The seven general capabilities of Literacy, Numeracy, Information and Communication technology (ICT) capability, Critical and creative thinking, Personal and social capability, Ethical understanding, and Intercultural understanding are identified where they offer opportunities to add depth and richness to student learning.


Representation of Cross-curriculum priorities

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures includes study of the ideas that have influenced movements for change, the progress towards recognition and equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the focus of continued efforts.


Achievement standards


Unit 1: Understanding the Modern World

Unit 1: Understanding the Modern World Description

This unit examines developments of significance in the modern era, including the ideas that inspired them and their far-reaching consequences. Students examine TWO topics, including at least ONE study of a development or turning point that has helped to define the modern world. Students explore crucial changes for example the application of reason to human affairs; the transformation of production, consumption, transport and communications; the challenge to social hierarchy and hereditary privilege, and the assertion of inalienable rights; and the new principles of government by consent. Through their studies, students explore the nature of the sources for the study of Modern History and build their skills in historical method through inquiry. The key conceptual understandings covered in this unit are: what makes an historical development significant; the changing nature and usefulness of sources; the changing representations and interpretations of the past; and the historical legacy of these developments for the Western world and beyond.

Unit 1: Understanding the Modern World Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit, students:

  • understand key developments that have helped define the modern world, their causes, the different experiences of individuals and groups, and their short and long term consequences
  • understand the ideas that both inspired and emerged from these key developments and their significance for the contemporary world
  • apply key concepts as part of a historical inquiry, including evidence, continuity and change, cause and effect, significance, empathy, perspectives and contestability
  • use historical skills to investigate particular developments of the modern era and the nature of sources; determine the reliability and usefulness of sources and evidence; explore different interpretations and representations; and use a range of evidence to support and communicate an historical argument.

Unit 1: Understanding the Modern World Content Descriptions

Historical skills

All the following skills will be studied during this unit. Relevant skills will be emphasised for each topic.

Chronology, terms and concepts

Identify links between events to understand the nature and significance of causation, change and continuity over time (ACHMH001)

Use historical terms and concepts in appropriate contexts to demonstrate historical knowledge and understanding (ACHMH002)

Historical questions and research

Formulate, test and modify propositions to investigate historical issues (ACHMH003)

Frame questions to guide inquiry and develop a coherent research plan for inquiry (ACHMH004)

Identify, locate and organise relevant information from a range of primary and secondary sources (ACHMH005)

Practise ethical scholarship when conducting research (ACHMH006)

Analysis and use of sources

Identify the origin, purpose and context of historical sources (ACHMH007)

Analyse, interpret and synthesise evidence from different types of sources to develop and sustain an historical argument (ACHMH008)

Evaluate the reliability, usefulness and contestable nature of sources to develop informed judgements that support a historical argument (ACHMH009)

Perspectives and interpretations

Analyse and account for the different perspectives of individuals and groups in the past (ACHMH010)

Evaluate critically different historical interpretations of the past, how they evolved, and how they are shaped by the historian’s perspective (ACHMH011)

Evaluate contested views about the past to understand the provisional nature of historical knowledge and to arrive at reasoned and supported conclusions (ACHMH012)

Explanation and communication

Develop texts that integrate appropriate evidence from a range of sources to explain the past and to support and refute arguments (ACHMH013)

Communicate historical understanding by selecting and using text forms appropriate to the purpose and audience (ACHMH014)

Apply appropriate referencing techniques accurately and consistently (ACHMH015)

Historical knowledge and understanding

Students study TWO topics with at least ONE to be chosen from the topic electives below. An alternative significant development may be chosen as one of the two topics of study in this unit.

  • The Enlightenment, 1750 – 1789
  • The American Revolution, 1763 – 1812
  • The French Revolution, 1774 – 1799
  • The Industrial Revolutions, 1750 – 1890s
  • The Age of Imperialism, 1848 – 1914

An alternative significant development or turning point may be chosen as one of the two topics of study in this unit. This could facilitate comparisons in terms of the far-reaching consequences of the developments. Any topic other than the suggested topic electives should be selected on the basis of the following criteria.

Students study at least ONE of the following topic electives which is to be taught with the requisite historical skills described at the start of this unit:

The Enlightenment (1750 – 1789)

The main factors contributing to the emergence of the Enlightenment, including the decline in the power of both the Church and Absolute Monarchy, the Scientific Revolution; and the spread of Enlightenment ideas across Europe (ACHMH016)

The motivation and role of individuals in the development of the Enlightenment, and conflicting ideas, with particular reference to Locke, Voltaire, Mill and Rousseau (ACHMH017)

The key ideas that emerged from the Enlightenment, including the belief in reason and opposition to superstition; the belief in the importance of free expression; the belief in the value of learning and education as reflected in the rise of universities and academies; and support for humanitarianism (ACHMH018)

The significant changes that occurred as a result of the Enlightenment, for example: movements for social and political reform; the rise of enlightened monarchies; increased interest in technological change; and belief in equal rights (ACHMH019)

The experiences and responses to the Enlightenment, for example those of scientists, intellectuals, monarchs, church leaders and revolutionary leaders (ACHMH020)

The significance and impact of the Enlightenment beyond Europe in the 19th century (ACHMH021)

The American Revolution (1763 – 1812)

The main causes of the American Revolution, including the significance of the Seven Years War (1756-1763); the influence of republican ideology; the imposition of taxes, repressive acts, and lack of American representation in British government; and the campaigns that were fought to achieve independence (for example Saratoga and Philadelphia)  (ACHMH022)

The aims and contribution of significant individuals to the revolutionary movement, with particular reference to Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Hancock and John Adams (ACHMH023)

The key ideas of liberalism, democracy and republicanism that emerged from the American Revolution as illustrated by the 1776 Declaration of Independence; the creation of a national constitution and Bill of Rights; and the establishment of constitutional government (ACHMH024)

The different experiences of revolutionaries, royalists, neutrals, native Americans, slaves and women during the period and their response to the challenges in the formation of the United States of America (ACHMH025)

The significant political, social and constitutional changes brought about by the American Revolution, for example: the separation of powers; treatment of the opponents of the new republic; losses during the war; and the emergence of the Federal system (ACHMH026)

The significance of the American Revolution into the 19th century: for example its impact on other revolutionary movements; and the implications for Australia of the cessation of British convict transportation to the United States (ACHMH027)

The French Revolution (1774 – 1799)

Modern History Senior secondary Curriculum - The Australian Curriculum v8.3


The motivation and role of significant individuals in the struggles of the Revolution, with particular reference to Danton, Marat, Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Robespierre and Saint-Just, and of significant groups including the sans-culottes, the bourgeoisie and the peasants (ACHMH029)

The key ideas and their significance in the French Revolution, including liberty, equality, fraternity, citizenship and inalienable rights (ACHMH030)

The significant changes that occurred during the French Revolution, including the overturning of the ‘ancien regime’, changes to the social structure of France, foreign policy and the revolutionary wars (ACHMH031)

The consequences of the French Revolution, including the difficulties and crises that were faced by revolutionary groups and government as the new state was consolidated, the counter-revolution and the ‘Reign of Terror’, the abolition of monarchy, the advent of democracy and the rise of the middle class (ACHMH032)

The significance of the French Revolution into the 19th century including, the rise and influence of Napoleonic France and the growth of nationalism as an outcome of the French Revolution (ACHMH033)

The Industrial Revolution (1750 – 1890s)

The main causes of the Industrial Revolution in the second half of the 18th century as debated by historians, including the invention of new technologies and use of coal and iron; population increase; European imperialism and the capital accumulated from trade (ACHMH034)

The role and significance of key individuals involved in the period of the Industrial Revolution, with particular reference to Watt, Darby, Thoreau and Smith (ACHMH035)

The impact of new processes and ideas on economic life, for example: the development of mining; the mechanisation of the textile industry; the rise of the factory system and production lines; the development of a steel-based second Industrial Revolution; and new forms of transport and communications (for example, canals, roads, and trains) (ACHMH036)

The emergence of key ideas and ideologies that supported or challenged the Industrial Revolution, for example capitalism; liberalism; laissez–faire; Chartism; socialism; the commodification of labour; and the Protestant work ethic (ACHMH037)

The experiences of factory owners, workers, women and children in the Industrial Revolution; and responses to the Industrial Revolution of Luddites, Chartists, trade unionists (ACHMH038)

The effectiveness of official responses to the challenges of the Industrial Revolution, including Royal Commissions, Factory Acts (1802-1850), ‘Peterloo Massacre’, and the Factory Act of 1833 (ACHMH039)

The significance of the Industrial Revolution in Britain up to the 1890s for the organisation and use of labour as a commodity, for living and working conditions; for the environment, urbanisation and transportation (ACHMH040)

The Age of Imperialism: 1848 – 1914

The main causes of imperial expansion, including the emergence of market economies in Europe, industrialisation, the competing naval powers of Britain, Germany and Russia and the competition to establish colonies and markets in Africa, Asia and the Pacific (ACHMH041)

The different forms of imperialism, including trade, exploitation of resources and strategic considerations (ACHMH042)

An overview of the extent of imperial expansion by 1914 in Africa, Asia and the Pacific (ACHMH043)

The key ideas of the ‘imperial age’ including nationalism, the glorification of ‘empire’ and the ‘Christian mission’ (ACHMH044)

With particular reference to ONE or more colonies, the methods and motivations of the colonisers; the experiences and responses of the colonised people; and the changes that occurred within the colony/colonies as part of imperial expansion (ACHMH045)

The significance of imperialism in this period, including the spread of Christianity, the growth of world trade and capitalism, and the growth of imperial rivalry and militarism (ACHMH046)